What is the Ohio River Basin Alliance?

The Alliance is a collaboration of over 100 partner agencies, groups and associations that includes state, local and federal governments, non-profit entities and NGO’s, industrial partners and academic institutions that all voluntarily work together to discuss their collective interests in the future of water resources in the Ohio River Basin. Water is our most important natural resource and the Ohio River Basin is home to an abundance of this precious asset. The basin encompasses 204,429 square miles and includes over 27 million people and within 15 states. The focus of the Ohio River Basin Alliance is to ensure this valuable resource is sustainable for future generations.

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ORBA Member Receives Prestigious National Science Foundation Award

Dr. Lilit Yeghiazarian

Dr. Lilit Yeghiazarian

Dr. Lilit Yeghiazarian, an Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati and a key member of ORBA’s Climate Study Team, recently received the National Science Foundation’s Early Career Development Award for her work “Integrated Research and Education in Stochastic Systems-Based Watershed Management & Water Safety (SWMS).” The award recognized outstanding young faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through innovative research, excellent education, and integration of research and education.

Dr. Yeghiazarian is developing a stochastic theory to derive water resources sustainability metrics that will guide watershed management strategies. For instance, it will help understand how likely contamination is at any place and time in a watershed, which areas of the watershed would be most sensitive to implementation of management measures, how quickly contaminant concevntration in the water will drop to safe levels, and how severe contamination was at a given location and time. Dr. Yeghiazarian anticipates that her work will improve environmental monitoring design; and that sustainable watershed management strategies will become more targeted in space and in time. This will likely lead to reduction of current high costs of managing the quality of nation’s waters, and will increase management efficiency not only in the Ohio River Basin but across the U.S.

ORBA Steering Committee Considers Joining U.S. Water Partnership

ORBA’s leadership is considering joining the U.S. Water Partnership but first they would like feedback from the membership. The US Water Partnership (USWP) is a U.S.-based public-private partnership (PPP) established to unite American expertise, knowledge, and resources, and mobilize those assets to address water challenges around the globe, especially in the developing world. The U.S. Water Partnership will connect people and resources, making information easily accessible and leveraging the assets of partners to offer a range of “best of the U.S.” solutions tailored to priority water needs. ORBA would join as an “affiliate partner” which means we would not provide funding, but rather provide advisory services such as data sharing and reviewing draft reports. Please provide your comments, for or against, to Mark Kessinger at mark.d.kessinger@usace.army.mil by Friday, May 9, 2014.

U.S. Water Partnership – Draft Application

ORBA Members Work to Develop Ohio River Basin Report Card

America's Watershed Initiative
On December 12-13, representatives from ORBA attended the America’s Watershed Initiative workshop in Covington, KY, to develop a report card on the health of water resources in the Ohio River Basin. Over 50 stakeholders from the basin attended the meeting to help build a report card to address a set of six broad social and environmental goals and to summarize and communicate the status and trends in the context of objectives for each goal. The 6 goals are: (1) maintain supply of abundant clean water, (2) provide reliable flood risk reduction, (3) support local, state and national economies, (4) support and enhance healthy and productive ecosystems, (5) provide world-class recreation opportunities, and (6) serve as the nation’s most valuable river transportation corridor. The Ohio River Basin report card will also be used to develop a report card for the entire Mississippi River Basin. For a final version of the Ohio River Basin report card click here.

ORBA members participate in Report Card discussion

ORBA members participate in Report Card discussion

For more information, contact ORBA’s Chair, Dr. Charles Somerville, at 304-696-2424 or somervil@marshall.edu.
Report Card

Ohio Basin Climate Change Study Modeling Results

A team made up of ORBA members is making progress on the basin’s first climate change study. NOAA’s Ohio River Forecast Center recently completed modeling efforts which show the possible changes to precipitation and drought in the basin due to climate change. In summary, the ensemble climate models suggest the mean, maximum and minimum flows will generally be within the range of history through 2040 except during the autumn season. Beyond 2040 through 2099, increases occur in the mean and maximum flows generally in the 10-40% range with some higher especially in the northern and eastern Ohio Valley and especially in autumn (really from late summer to early winter). Minimum flows decrease in most periods especially heading from 2040 past 2071. Peak spring flood season sees maximum flows increase especially beyond 2040. Autumn season experiences the greatest variability with minimum flows decreasing with time and maximum flows increasing with time (influenced by lower overall typical flows). It also shows that the 1976 to present climate trends are likely to persist through 2040, the autumn increases in maximum flows may enhance early cool season flood events in late autumn/early winter, and spring flooding could worsen beyond 2040. Droughts could lengthen or shift more between spring, summer and autumn beyond 2040, and variability is likely to increase with time. The team is now working to determine the impacts on endangered species and on how might we change the operations of our water infrastructure. For a summary of the modeling results, click here to view the report.

Green Waters: The Path to Sustainability

By Melissa Andersen for ORBA

Sustaining the rivers and waterways of our planet is becoming a primary concern for many countries, as wildlife species become depleted and pollution is an overriding factor in fresh and seawaters today. Our awareness and action in sustaining healthy riverbeds is paramount to the survival of wildlife and in the U.S there are initiatives in place that are striving to maintain healthy rivers and coastlines.

Leading the Way

The U.S Water Alliance holds conferences to highlight the importance of water sustainability in various States. The 2012 Conference took place in Cincinnati, Ohio and members met with White House Council leaders on the environment as well as researchers and the EPA to discuss innovation in green infrastructures. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s ‘Clean Lake’ project was one of the programs focused on, as an effective way of reducing the water from storm water systems. Another project, Lick Run, uses properties between streets to apply daylight to a stream and therefore slowing the flow of water into the sewers.

Projects such as these illustrate how the U.S. can use innovation to manage their water systems and create healthier rivers. The U.S. Water Alliance awards a Water Prize each year for the more innovative solution to water pollution and the project that makes the most outstanding achievement in sustainability is celebrated. This year the prize went to Onondaga County’s ‘Save the Rain’ project, which balances storm water technologies with green infrastructure and was created in 2009.

The Freshwater Trust was also a winner of the prize, and this program restores rivers and streams throughout the U.S, whilst creating new avenues for revenue to farmers. The Freshwater Trust works out the ecosystem that is provided naturally and distributes the services to help rivers that are struggling with the environment.

The ORBA Conference enables business, government and non-profit organizations to come together to discuss the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the critical issues that need addressing to protect these highly valued natural water sources. The Conference is next taking place in Louisville, in conjunction with America’s Watershed Summit, in September 2014.

Protecting Wetlands and Oceans

The Environmental Protection Agency promotes awareness of the need to protect the wetlands, watersheds and oceans around us. We are surrounded by waterways and we need to learn how much our actions affect these areas. Pollution is a significant problem today, on a global scale, and it is only by educating ourselves about how to protect our natural resources that we can reduce the damage being impacted on our rivers and oceans. Wetlands provide the natural habitats for wildlife that are crucial to their survival and pressure on coastlines is growing as the population of people living on the coast increases.

A National Ocean Policy was introduced in 2010, an Executive Order (EO) that listens to the Ocean Policy Task Force and instructs agencies to take measures to improve and sustain the ocean. The Ocean Dumping Act, or MPRSA, was introduced to prevent material being dumped and to better protect the marine life and environment of the ocean. A permit must be obtained for the dumping of any material today, from the MPRSA. Alongside this initiative, discharges from vessels are being better managed by a permit program, which seeks to reduce pollution from military, commercial and recreational vessels. Pollution may be in the form of bilgewater, which is sewage, anti-fouling paints, hazardous material and garbage, which can harm the indigenous species that inhabit the ocean. The cruise ship industry is introducing initiatives to help combat some of these problems. According to Iglu Cruise, the redevelopment of onboard water treatment means that ships are now ‘able to turn their waste water into a product often cleaner than the water that comes out of your tap at home’.

The rivers, wetlands and oceans of the U.S. need protecting through initiatives and partnerships. It is only through education that we learn about how our actions impact on the environment and can seriously damage our natural resources and our wildlife. Alliances such as the Ohio River Basin brings together important bodies, from agencies, researchers, non-profit organizations and academia to problem solve issues that are affecting the waters around us. With continued implementation of programs and through celebrating achievements, we can make a difference and achieve sustainable, green rivers and oceans.

New Officers

Our new Chair is Dr. Charles “Chuck” Somerville of Marshall University.  Dr. Somerville is the Dean of Science at Marshall and brings a wealth of expertise and a love for the Ohio River Basin in leading the committee.  At our conference in Louisville, he officially replaced Carolyn Hefner who has been a strong leader in establishing and growing ORBA since its inception in 2009.  Thank you Carolyn for your tireless service over the last 4 years!

The 2014-2015 Steering Committee members are:

Academic Representative
Dr. Charles “Chuck” Somerville Steinmaus, Chair, Dean
Marshall University College of Science

Environmental Representative
Mike Steinmaus, Chair, Board of Directors
Appalachian Energy & Environment Partnership

Energy Representative
David E. Bailey
Electric Power Research Institute

ORSANCO Representative
Jerry Schulte
Manager, Source Water Protection and Emergency Response

Conservation Representative
Carolyn A. Hefner, Chief of Operations
West Virginia Conservation Agency

Navigation Industry Representative
Martin T. Hettel, Senior Manager of Bulk Sales
AEP River Operations

Engineering Industry Representative
Kari Mackenbach
URS Corporation

Engineering Industry Representative
Alan Vicory
Stantec, Inc.

Waterways Association Representative
Fred Nyhuis President, Huntington District Waterways Association
Marine Operations Supervisor, Marathon Marine Division

Gerald “Jerry” Sutphin
Visual Information, Ltd.

NGO Representative
Dr. Harry Stone, Battelle

USEPA Representative
Dr. Earl Hanson
National Risk Management Research Laboratory